Pea Green Fuel

Cindy Zimmerman

ARSUSDA research scientists are exploring the possibility of using peas to make ethanol. According to this Agricultural Research Service story, the research project got started because farmers who grow field peas were looking for a way to add value to their crop.

Most peas grown in the northern United States and elsewhere are fed whole to animals as a rich source of protein. The remainder is sold for human consumption as split peas. Besides protein, field peas also contain lots of starch. The farmers thought they might earn more if the crop’s starch could be used to make ethanol for fuel, while still using the leftover protein as high-value feed for animals.

So the scientists went to work separating out the pea starch and making it into ethanol and they found that it “produced somewhat less ethanol than corn (1.7 gallons per bushel versus 2.8), because the legume had less starch to begin with. But the pea starch fermented just as easily as corn starch. Potentially, the high yield of enriched protein, together with the fermentation leftovers, could be sold as livestock feed.”